Some residents concerned about Whitewright fertilizer plants

WHITEWRIGHT, TX -- It has been over a week since the fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded leaving at least 14 people dead and dozens more wounded. Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the blast as state and federal agencies question inspection and regulation policies for plants. Friday, Kristen Shanahan visited one Texoma town that is home to two fertilizer plants. She found out what emergency plans are in place if a disaster were to occur there.

El Dorado Chemical Company and Helena Chemical sit right next to each other off South Bond Street in Whitewright. They are both fertilizer facilities -- and after the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West -- some residents who live just feet away from these plants are voicing their concerns.

Shane Parker lives just feet away from both fertilizer plants in Whitewright. He says he never thought twice about living next to them until the plant in West exploded, leveling part of the town.

"When it first happened in West I suggested selling the house and moving", Parker said.

A Helena representative says they do not have any "explosive" chemicals on site. An El Dorado spokesman says while their bins do hold ammonium nitrate their materials are housed in a way that does not pose a threat to the public. He says ammonium nitrate is not explosive unless it is tightly contained and mixed with fuel and heat.

"To my knowledge there's not an explosion hazard, but we still have plans in place in case a situation were to come up where it could happen, but has of right now neither one are reporting an explosion hazard," Fire Chief Joshua Clouse said.

Whitewright Fire Chief Joshua Clouse says if a massive fire broke out, they would immediately evacuate all nearby areas -- including the school -- which is across the street from the plants.

"We would start as close as we can, especially the schools, which they would relocate outside of city limits as quickly as possible," Clouse said.

Parker has two sons -- one in kindergarten at Whitewright Elementary. He says he is anxious for investigators to find out what caused the plant in West to explode, in the hopes of preventing a disaster like that from happening again and to help prevent such tragedy from ever hitting home.

"This is a little bitty community it would absolutely crush this town. Especially the school, if there were kids going to school when it happened. It would take this whole neighborhood out and the school. I mean it would devastate this town," Parker said.

Both representatives from El Dorado and Helena Chemicals say when officials discover what caused the explosion in West they will re-evaluate and see if there are any extra safety precautions they can take at their own plants.


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